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LPs from the Attic: The Feelies — Crazy Rhythms

May 31, 2010

The Feelies -- Crazy Rhythms

Everybody's got something to hide except me and my monkey

The Feelies — Crazy Rhythms ( A&M, 1980)

You remind of me a TV show / That’s alright, I’ll watch it anyway — “Crazy Rhythms”

The Feelies’  metronomic, punky New Wave sounds like Iggy and The Stooges plus bachelor’s degrees in computer science, trading distorted guitars for largely acoustic rapid-fire and bloody shirtlessness for v-necked cardigans paired with horned rims (check the cover…Weezer certainly did). More than once, I wondered what the Velvet Underground would have sounded like covering “TV Eye” with David Byrne producing right around 1978. The New Jersey band’s debut proves more cerebral than visceral, but with just the right amount of big-city sleaze griming up the periphery.

Crazy Rhythms boasts, if not exactly crazy rhythms from a time-signature standpoint, then certainly energetic, up-tempo rhythms through clean, snappy drumming (ace Fier), buoyant basslines (DeNunzio), and an overall emphasis on percussive movement. Things move from frenetic to frantic to joyously jittery as on “The Boy With the Perpetual Nervousness.” Jagged guitar lines (Million and Mercer) intertwine with vamped chords like a barbed-wire barber’s pole. Maracas, bells, sandpaper, cans, bells, and shoes all find gainful employment as beat-keeping tools. Guitars gallop and stutter, zigzag and sometimes fuzz out entirely, all in service of the rhythm. You can pump your fist to it, you can dance to it, you can lose yourself in it.

While the vocals unavoidably draw comparisons to Iggy and Lou Reed (and draw a clear line to current-era singers like Julian Casablancas), this should in no way detract from The Feelies’ own idiosyncratic take on this style of thinking person’s party-rock. Their focus on tight playing, instrumental innovation, and spiky quirkiness distinguishes them among their peers.

Recommended:

  • The Boy with Perpetual Nervousness
  • Fa Ce-La
  • Forces at Work
  • Everybody’s Got Something To Hide (Except Me and My Monkey) Jay: Manic, stand-out Beatles cover; almost Robert Plant-like lead vocals a la “Wearing and Tearing”
  • Raised Eyebrows
  • Crazy Rhythms J: The title track makes for the best track on the album. Great volatile-vulnerable dynamics and building tension, entrancing and powerful.

The Feelies’ Crazy Rhythms was voted #49 in Rolling Stone‘s Top 100 Albums of the 80’s. Bar/None Records offers the album on 180-gram vinyl, including download codes for all the album tracks plus live tracks and demos. You can also feel more Feelies on myspace.com/thefeelies.

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